Mobile Navigation
Navigation
Famous Kansans »

Famous Kansans » Government

City

Cyrus K. Holliday

See also under Kansas.

Cyrus K. Holliday was one of the founders of Topeka, served as the first and only president of the Topeka Town Association and served many times as mayor of Topeka.

Susanna M. Salter

  • Born: March 2, 1860
  • Died: March 17, 1961
  • Connection to Kansas: Lived in Argonia

Achievement:

Susanna M. Salter made history in 1887 when she was elected as mayor of Argonia, KS, becoming the first woman elected as mayor in Kansas and the first woman elected to any political office in the United States. She was a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and was nominated on the Prohibition Party ticket by several Argonia men as a joke. She received two-thirds of the votes, just weeks after Kansas women had gained the right to vote in city elections.

Susanna M. Salter image
Susanna M. Salter
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Kansas

David J. Brewer

See also under United States.

David J. Brewer was a judge to the Probate and Criminal Courts in Leavenworth and served from 1862 to 1865 then changed courts to be a judge to the First Judicial District of Kansas, serving from 1865 to 1869. He was then elected to the Kansas Supreme Court in 1870 and served there until 1884.

Sam Brownback

  • Born: September 12, 1956
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Garnett, raised in Parker

Achievement:

Sam Brownback began his career in leadership roles at an early age. He was elected as state president of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and later the national FFA vice-president while he was in high school. At Kansas State University he served as student body president his senior and served as class president during law school at the University of Kansas. In 1986 he became Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, the youngest person to hold the office in state history, serving until 1990 and again from 1991 to 1993. In 2010 he was elected as the 46th Governor of Kansas and serves in that position at present.

Sam Brownback image
Sam Brownback
Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Arthur Capper

  • Born: July 14, 1865
  • Died: December 19, 1951
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Garnett

Achievement:

Arthur Capper was a newspaper editor and publisher who was elected as the 20th Governor of Kansas and served two terms from 1915 to 1919. He was the first native-born Kansan to hold the office. A statue of his likeness by artist Pete Felten stands in the rotunda of the Kansas Capitol building.

Arthur Capper image
Arthur Capper
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Joan Finney

  • Born: February 12, 1925
  • Died: July 28, 2001
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

Joan Finney began her political career by working in the Topeka and Washington, D.C. officers of United States Senator Frank Carlson. She served as commissioner of elections for Shawnee County from 1970 to 1972 and then was elected to serve as Kansas State Treasurer, becoming the first woman to hold that position. She was also the longest serving treasurer, holding officer from 1975 to 1991. She was elected the 42nd Governor of Kansas and was the first woman to hold the office of governor and the first woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election in the United States. She served as governor from 1991 to 1995.

Joan Finney image
Joan Finney
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Cyrus K. Holliday

  • Born: April 3, 1826
  • Died: March 29, 1900
  • Connection to Kansas: Lived in Topeka

Achievement:

Cyrus K. Holliday served as adjutant general of Kansas during the Civil War in which he recruited soldiers and insured that supplies were sent to the front lines. He had a principal role in founding the Free State Politial Party and also helped found the Kansas Republican Party. He would serve in both the territorial and state legislatures and in 1862 he donated 20 acres of land for the construction of the Kansas Capitol.

See also under Business.

Cyrus K. Holliday image
Cyrus K. Holliday
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

John James Ingalls

  • Born: December 29, 1933
  • Died: August 16, 1900
  • Connection to Kansas: Lived in Atchison

Achievement:

John James Ingalls was instrumental in Kansas' early days. He served as a delegate at the 1859 Wyandotte Constitutional Convention, the convention where the state constitution that Kansas uses today was written. Following statehood he served as secretary of the first state senate and as a state senator in 1862. He is said to have coined the state motto, Ad astra per aspera and the state seal is a modified version of a design he submitted.

John James Ingalls image
John James Ingalls
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Alfred Landon

  • Born: September 9, 1887
  • Died: October 12, 1987
  • Connection to Kansas: Lived in Independence and Topeka

Achievement:

Alfred Landon began his career in politics in 1922 when he served as secretary to Kansas Governor Henry Allen. He became a leader in state's progressive faction and in 1928 was elected to the state Republican chairmanship and directed successful Republican presidential and gubernatorial campaigns in Kansas that year. He was elected as the 26th Governor of Kansas and held office from 1933 to 1937. During the Great Depression years of the 1930s, he was the only Republican candidate to win a gubernatorial contest. He was nominated as the Republican candidate for president in 1936 presidential election, but lost to incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Landon State Office Building in Topeka is named in his honor and his is the father of former Kansas Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker.

Alfred Landon image
Alfred Landon
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Kathleen Sebelius

  • Born: May 15, 1948
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Lived in Topeka

Achievement:

Kathleen Sebelius, the daughter of former Ohio Governor Jack Gilligan, worked her way through the political ranks to reach the state's highest office. She began her political career as executive director and chief lobbyist for the Kansas Association for Justice from 1977 to 1986. She won election to the Kansas House of Representatives and served from 1987 to 1995 when she was elected as the first woman Kansas Insurance Commissioner, serving until 2003. In 2001, she was named as one of Governing Magazine's Public Officials of the Year. She ran for, and was elected, as the 44th Governor of Kansas in 2002, becoming the second woman to hold the office. She served as governor from 2003 to 2009 and was named as one of the five best governors in America by Time magazine in 2005. She and her father became the first father/daughter governor pair in the United States after her election.

Kathleen Sebelius image
Kathleen Sebelius
Photo courtesy of the Department of Health and Human Services

United States

Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker

  • Born: July 29, 1932
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, the daughter of former Kansas Governor Alfred Landon, served Kansas in the United States Senate from 1978 to 1997. She was first woman from Kansas elected to the Senate and was the first woman ever elected to a full term in the Senate without her husband having previously served in Congress. She served as chairman of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources and was known for her work on health care.

Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker image
Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate

David J. Brewer

  • Born: June 20, 1837
  • Died: March 28, 1910
  • Connection to Kansas: Lived in Leavenworth

Achievement:

David J. Brewer began practicing law in Leavenworth in 1859 and shortly after was named Commissioner of the Federal Circuit Court in Leavenworth in 1861. He served in the Kansas courts system until 1884 when he was nominated by President Chester A. Arthur to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He was nominated for the United States Supreme Court by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889 and would serve on that bench until his death in 1910.

David J. Brewer image
David J. Brewer
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Sam Brownback

See also under Kansas.

Following his time as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served from 1995 to 1996. In 1996 he was elected to represent Kansas in the United States Senate, serving from 1997 to 2011 when he was elected as Governor of Kansas.

Arthur Capper

See also under Kansas.

Following his two terms as Governor of Kansas, Arthur Capper represented Kansas in the United States Senate from 1919 to 1949. While in the Senate he served as chairman of several committees include the Committee of Expenditures of the Department of Agriculture and the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

Clark Clifford

  • Born: December 25, 1906
  • Died: October 10, 1998
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Fort Scott

Achievement:

Clark Clifford was a lawyer and adviser for several United States presidents. He served as a officer in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946 where he served as a naval aide to President Harry S. Truman, for whom he became a trusted adviser and friend. Following his time in the navy he served as White House Counsel for President Truman from 1946 to 1950. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which he was chairman from 1963 to 1968. He also served frequently as an unofficial White House Counsel for President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1968 President Johnson appointed Clifford as United States Secretary of Defense, which he held until 1969. In 1980, President Carter appointed him as special presidential emissary to India. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 by President Johnson.

Clark Clifford image
Clark Clifford
Photo courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

Charles Curtis

  • Born: January 25, 1860
  • Died: February 8, 1936
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

Charles Curtis began his career in public service by serving as a prosecuting attorney for Shawnee County. He represented Kansas in the United States House of Representatives from 1893 to 1907 where he would serve on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Committee on Indian Affairs and Public Lands. He served in the United States Senate from 1907 to 1913 and then again from 1915 to 1929. While in the Senate he was President pro tempore in 1911, Senate Republican Whip from 1915 to 1924 and Senate Majority Leader from 1925 to 1929. He was nominated served as 31st Vice President of the United States under President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933, becoming the first person of Native American ancestry to hold either of the two highest offices in the executive branch of the United States Government. The Curtis State Office Building in Topeka is named in his honor.

Charles Curtis image
Charles Curtis
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Bob Dole

  • Born: July 22, 1923
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Russell

Achievement:

Bob Dole began his career in politics in 1950 when he was elected to the Kansas House of Representative, serving until 1952. He would go on to represent Kansas in the United States House of Representatives serving from 1961 to 1969. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1969 and served until 1996. While in the Senate he would serve as Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971-1973, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance from 1981 to 1985, Senate Minority Leader from 1987 to 1995, and Senate Majority Leader from 1985 to 1987 and again from 1995 to 1996. He was nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate for President Geral Ford during the 1976 presidential election. He made ran for president in 1980 and 1988, failing to gain the Republican Pary nomination. He was nominated as the Republican Party presidential candidate during the 1996 presidential election, losing to incumbant President Bill Clinton. He was awarded the Presidents Citizens Medal in 1989 by President Ronald Regan and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics on the University of Kansas campus is named in his honor.

Bob Dole image
Bob Dole
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Born: October 14, 1890
  • Died: March 28, 1969
  • Connection to Kansas: Raised in Abilene

Achievement:

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first, and to date, only Kansan to be elected as the 34th President of the United States. He served two terms as president from 1953 to 1961. While in office he desegregated the military in 1953; ordered a cease-fire with North Korea ending the Korean War in 1953; signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 which created the Interstate Highway System, the first stretch opened in Kansas west of Topeka in 1956; established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 for space exploration; and admitted Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states to the Union in 1959. Following his death in 1969 he is buried in his family chapel on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene. A statue of his likeness by artist Pete Felten stands in the rotunda of the Kansas Capitol and a bronze statue by artist Jim Brothers stands in the rotunda on the United States Capitol. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is in the planning stages to be constructed in Washington D.C.

See also under Military Leaders.

Dwight D. Eisenhower image
Official White House portrait of President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Portrait by James Anthony Wills

Robert Gates

  • Born: September 25, 1943
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Wichita

Achievement:

Robert Gates began his career in government in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1966 to 1989. He served as Deputy Director of the CIA from 1986 to 1989 and then served as Director of the CIA from 1991 to 1993. He was the only career officer in CIA history to rise from an entry-level employee to Director. Following his time at the CIA he served as a lecturer at several universities and was named President of Texas A&M University from 2002 to 2006. In 2006 he was appointed as United States Secretary of Defense by President George W. Bush and served in that capacity under President Barak Obama until 2011. He is the first Secretary of Defense to serve under two presidents from different political parties. He has been awarded the National Security Medal, Presidential Citizens Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Robert Gates image
Robert Gates
Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

Georgia Neese Clark Gray

  • Born: January 27, 1898
  • Died: October 26, 1995
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Richland

Achievement:

Georgia Neese Clark Gray, a banker from Richland, was active in the Kansas Democratic Party and was elected Democratic National Committee member from Kansas in 1936 and held this position until 1964. She was an earlier supporter of Harry S. Truman and it was through this support that President Truman appointed her as Treasurer of the United States, becoming the first woman to serve in this position. She held the office from 1949 to 1953 and her name became known to millions through her signature on all United States currency issued while she was in office.

Georgia Neese Clark Gray image
Georgia Neese Clark Gray
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

John James Ingalls

See also under Kansas

John James Ingalls represented Kansas in the United States Senate from 1873 to 1891 where he was elected President pro tempore from 1887 to 1891. He also served as chairman for the Committee on Pensions and chairman for the Committee on the District of Columbia. In 1905 Kansas donated a marble statue of Ingalls to the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.

Gale Norton

  • Born: March 11, 1954
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Wichita

Achievement:

Gale Norton began her career in politics in Washington, D.C. by working as Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and as Associate Solicitor of the United States Department of the Interior. From 1991 to 1999, she served as Attorney General of Colorado, the first woman to hold this position, and made a bid for a United States Senate seat in 1996, but was defeated in the primary. In 2001 she was appointed by President George W. Bush to be the United States Secretary of the Interior, the first woman to hold the position. She served until 2006.

Gale Norton image
Gale Norton
Photo courtesy of the Department of the Interior

Kathleen Sebelius

See also under Kansas.

In 2009, while she was Governor of Kansas, she was appointed by President Barak Obama to be the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services and serves in that position until 2014.

Harold Sebring

  • Born: March 9, 1898
  • Died: July 26, 1968
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Olathe

Achievement:

Harold Sebring graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University) in 1923 and proceeded to law school at the University of Florida. Following law school, he practiced law in Florida and was eventually appointed the the Florida Supreme Court serving from 1943 to 1955. After World War II, President Harry S. Truman appointed him to sit on the bench for the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals. From 1946 to 1947 he was a judge on the Doctors' Trial, one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, a series of tweleve United States military tribunals.

Harold Sebring image
Harold Sebring
Photo by Harvey E. Slade

Arlen Specter

  • Born: February 12, 1930
  • Died: October 14, 2012
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Wichita, raised in Russell

Achievement:

Arlen Specter was a United States Senator from Pennsylvania. He began his political career by serving as assistan counsel for the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He served as District Attorney of Philadelphia from 1966 to 1974 and was elected to the United States Senate in 1980. He served as a Senator from 1981 to 2011 and was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1995 to 1997, chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs from 1997 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2005 and chairman of the Judiciary Committee from 2005 to 2007. He made a bid for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination but suspended his campaign to endorse Kansas Senator Bob Dole.

Arlen Specter image
Arlen Specter
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate

Charles Evans Whittaker

  • Born: February 22, 1901
  • Died: November 26, 1973
  • Connection to Kansas: Born near Troy

Achievement:

Charles Evans Whittaker was the first native-born Kansan to sit on the United States Supreme Court. He obtained a law degree from the Kansas City School of Law (now the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law) in 1924 where he was classmates with future President Harry S. Truman. He was appointed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri in 1954 and then was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1956. Less than a year later he was nominated by President Eisenhower to the United States Supreme Court becoming the first person to serve as a judege of a federal district court, a federal court of appeals and the Supreme Court. He served on the Supreme Court from 1957 to 1962. The federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City is named in his honor.

Charles Evans Whittaker image
Charles Evans Whittaker
Portrait by C.J. Fox